Back to school, back to fitness
(BPT) - No matter how long it's been since you set foot in a classroom, September can still bring a sense of starting over, which makes it the perfect time of year to take stock of where you are and where you want to be with your general health and level of fitness. You can go "back to school" by enrolling in an exercise class or get a new "teacher" by hiring a personal trainer. "There is a sense of new beginnings on all fronts when school starts," says Jenna Murphy, a 42-year-old mom from Maple Grove, Minn. "This fall I want to improve my flexibility through yoga. I also plan on trying ballet bar fitness as well as kettle bells." While January is the traditional time when many people consider starting healthy habits, they don't always see those changes through to the end of the year. "The new year creates more emotion and motivation to start change," explains Jason Stella, a master personal trainer at Life Time Fitness, The Healthy Way of Life Company. "The problem with this motivation is that once the media hype and emotional high is gone, so is the belief in achieving the goal." Even if you have a good start in January and keep your resolve through the summer, come fall - with its endless procession of holidays - even the most dedicated can stop making fitness a priority. Instead of thinking, "I'll start over in January," use these three Rs to make September a time to renew your fitness goals. Reassess: Consider what you have accomplished so far and what new action you need to take to stay on course with your goals. In addition, evaluate your schedule. How can you fit fitness in with activities and obligations that start in the fall while staying motivated with fewer daylight hours? Fitness centers often create new schedules this time of year. Learn something new by way of a new exercise class or sport, or find a nutrition or health education seminar to attend. Reconnect: Find ways to re-establish that emotional high toward your goals and keep the momentum going. One way to do this is to sign up for an event that will complement your health and fitness goals, or help you achieve them. "An event can be a 10K, a triathlon, half-marathon or more extreme events like the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race or Alpha Showdown," Stella says. "This keeps motivation high throughout the year and helps people stay on track with the kind of lifestyle behaviors that lead to achieving their desired goals." Accomplishing these events also leads to more confidence, he adds, which perpetuates the goal-setting, goal-achieving cycle. Reassert: Change your mindset from making a resolution to making a commitment. "A personal commitment is much more powerful than a resolution, which is often thrust upon us by outside expectations," Stella says. A resolution is deciding to do or not do something; a commitment is a promise or obligation. "Think about the personal responsibility between the two. When people 'promise' or make an 'obligation' it puts their credibility on the line, and maintaining one's credibility has a huge impact on motivation." Murphy, who is a member of the Life Time Fitness in Maple Grove, Minn., says she is no longer in school, but having a personal trainer provides a great education. "Four years ago, having never done anything athletic my whole life, the best decision I have ever made was to work with a personal trainer from the start. She is always introducing me to new workouts and showing me I can do things I never thought I could. That's very empowering and affirming to me."